For a first-time home buyer, there’s nothing quite as exhilarating as hearing the words “your offer has been accepted.” It is the realization of a dream; the fulfillment of a major life achievement.
Once the celebration is over, the serious business of closing on the home begins. For real estate agents, this is a familiar process. But for first-time buyers, it can be confusing and intimidating—after all, they’re more likely to be dreaming about colors for their new kitchen, than title insurance, escrow and closing costs.
There are a number of ways a real estate agent can make those crucial final steps, from acceptance of an offer to handing over of the keys, as stress-free as possible for the first-time buyer. Here are five steps:
#1 Remember that while Realtors have likely gone through dozens or hundreds of closings, the process is brand-new for the buyer. So it’s a good idea for an agent to have a meeting with the buyer, either in-person or on the phone, as soon as possible after the offer is accepted to go over next steps. Again, for the real estate agent this is familiar territory, but for the buyer it’s all brand-new, and knowing what’s ahead can go a long way toward relieving the stress.
#2 If the buyer is required to have title insurance, recommend a reputable title insurance company: one with a proven track record of professionalism, integrity and experience. And be sure to recommend title insurance if the buyer is not required to have it, for the protection—and peace of mind—it affords buyers.
#3 Agents should remind buyers that even after they’ve paid for a home inspection, radon test, and other costs, they aren’t quite done writing checks. Closing costs can total from two to seven percent of the purchase price. This may come as a surprise to buyers not familiar with the long list of fees necessary to close a purchase—prepare them as early in the process as possible.
#4 At least one day before closing, Realtors should schedule a final walk-through. This gives the buyer an opportunity to make sure the home is move-in ready and to gain peace of mind about the transaction, or to take note of any issues that need to be corrected before they take ownership.
#5 First-time buyers probably aren’t aware of the procedures of closing day, including the hill of paperwork they’ll be signing, or that they may need to schedule up to two hours out of their day, so it’s important they be prepared ahead of time.
#6 Since even the simplest oversight, like forgetting to bring valid identification, can delay the closing process, real estate agents should consider running through a checklist with the buyer the day before closing. That checklist should include items the buyer must bring to closing, including proof of insurance, a cashier’s check for closing fees, a personal checkbook for additional fees, and of course, the keys to the home.
At long last the ink is starting to dry, the process is finished and it’s time for the buyer to move into their new home. But in the midst of the excitement, a keen Realtor may want to issue one more helpful hint. Why not give them a gentle reminder to store their closing documents in a safe place? Then they can have peace of mind and unbridled excitement as they start calling up friends for help with the move or head to the home improvement store to pick out that paint for their new kitchen.